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The Ending Of The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 14 Explained

Contains spoilers for "The Walking Dead" Season 11, Episode 14 ("The Rotten Core")

AMC's long-running zombie walker drama is racing full-speed ahead towards its last-ever mid-season finale. Of course, as previously announced, "The Walking Dead" is set to conclude later this year after a record-breaking, 24-episode final season. Of course, while it's comforting to know that we will still have another eight-episode batch left to go after Episode 16, it will undeniably be sad to say goodbye to this show's always eventful mid-season finales. Until then, however, we've still got a whole two more uninterrupted episodes to go.

In Season 11, Episode 14, the growing tension between the Commonwealth and its many neighbors continues to boil over into some of the first shots of a growing war. Notably, this particular confrontation doesn't go quite so well for the apparently larger force. Elsewhere, Governor Milton's consistently unpleasant son, Sebastian (Teo Rapp-Olsson), sends Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) on a suicide mission for cash where the two newest members of the Commonwealth Army learn a distressing detail about the incredible levels of corruption within the Commonwealth. And, of course, it wouldn't be an episode of "The Walking Dead" if a journey outside the home base didn't also manage to resurface a familiar face or two.

Let's dig into the details of the latest episode of "The Walking Dead" and breakdown the biggest reveals and takeaways.

Toby Carlson meets a fitting end

It's been fairly clear for sometime now that Commonwealth Head Recruiter Toby Carlson (Jason Butler Harner) was probably marked for a particularly gruesome death, something this episode certainly delivers in spades. After Toby repeatedly displays a brutal willingness to murder anyone who displeases him, Aaron (Ross Marquand) sees fits to shoot him in the chest four times, sending the former CIA officer plunging off the same balcony he previously pushed numerous innocent people from. As he lands on the ground, the impact of his body awakens the nearby dead. He begins to bleed out from his wounds, but not before he is also slowly eaten by his own victims.

Many fans of the series have been calling for Toby's death since before Season 11, Episode 13 ("Warlords") even finished airing. In that episode, Aaron and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) negotiated a difficult peace with a neighboring community, only for Toby to needlessly execute their leader. Although the Commonwealth routinely presents itself as the panacea of the apocalypse, in reality, the governing body tends to rule it in more of a "join or die" manner. Of course, from the real story surrounding Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Stephanie (Chelle Ramos) to the plethora of other corruption issues, the core of the Commonwealth is certainly more rotten than advertised.

Toby's death also presents a number of interesting questions for the future. Given the fact that we know a war between the Commonwealth and Hilltop is coming, how exactly will such a war breakout? And, given the fact that the people of Hilltop seem intent on protecting the new community of Riverbend, might their futures be inevitably intertwined?

Carol makes nice with Hornsby after near disaster

After teaming up with Mercer (Michael James Shaw) to save Daryl and Rosita from Sebastian's harebrained money scheme, Carol makes a well-timed visit to the office of Commonwealth Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton), where she makes a surprising discovery. Not only is the deputy governor aware of the foolhardy and deadly mission, he appears to have officially sanctioned it. 

As previously revealed in the episode, Daryl and Rosita are only the latest members of the Commonwealth Army to be sent on a dangerous heist operation. Even more notably, they are actually the only survivors of some 30 to 40 people ordered to hunt for simple bags of cash. When Carol reports to Hornsby that the latest mission was a success, he breathes a sigh of relief and says, "Finally." Carol does her best to hide her revulsion, but can't help inquiring, "Why did you send the other people? What did they do?" In response, Hornsby simply says, "They put themselves in bad situations. Either through stupid choices or an unwillingness to play by the rules. I tried to throw them a lifeline." 

It's not entirely clear what purpose cash serves in the apocalypse or how Hornsby stands to benefit from its acquisition. However, Carol is in a fairly unique position to interpret such a response from Hornsby. In fact, by this point, Carol is already guilty of choosing to circumvent the rules of the Commonwealth. Back in Season 11, Episode 12 ("The Lucky Ones"), Carol secured Ezekiel (Khary Payton) an early surgery and wiped away his medical debt by doing a few small favors for Hornsby. Something tells us Hornsby isn't one you want to owe a favor to. While Carol is continuing to play nice for now, we have to hope that the legendary warrior can already detect a sense of danger. 

Negan makes Hershel a promise

One of the more unexpected twists of this episode involves Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) rescuing Hershel Rhee (Kien Michael Spiller) from a soldier of the Commonwealth. While Negan's return and this rescue are noteworthy enough on their own, the part that makes this even more interesting is the fact that Maggie (Lauren Cohan) learns about it and is entirely helpless to respond. Even though every bone in her body is screaming to get Negan away from Hershel, Maggie is ultimately forced to trust her longtime foe with her most precious cargo.

Of course, longtime fans of "The Walking Dead" will remember that Negan is the man responsible for the Season 7 murder of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), Maggie's husband and Hershel's father. Although Negan has undeniably undergone a variety of changes in the many years since he committed this heinous act, the consequences of his brutality remain. As a result of Negan's barbarism, Maggie is forced to raise her son as a single mother and, of course, young Hershel never even got an opportunity to meet his father. However, despite his young age, it turns out Hershel is already up to speed on who Negan is and why Maggie so desperately wants him to stay away. 

After an incredibly tense first confrontation, Negan makes a point to promise Hershel an opportunity to settle their "unfinished business" at some time in the future. This specific choice of words combined with the fact that Negan has already started building a new family of his own has us thinking about the recently announced spin-off series focused on Maggie and Negan. What could this mean for the future of Negan's new family? And, how do Hershel, Annie (Medina Senghore), and a potential "Negan Jr." even figure into such a dangerous-sounding show?

Leah returns

Like last week's episode, Episode 14 also introduces a revealing time jump. For much of the last two episodes, Ian and the rest of the Commonwealth have been operating under the assumption that the people of Riverbend stole their weapons shipment. However, Riverbend's leader, Ian (Michael Biehn), maintains his innocence all the way through to the moment of his death. This sensibly leads Father Gabriel to ask a very important question: "If Ian didn't steal the weapons, who did?"

Instead, in the final moments of the episode, it is revealed that the person responsible for ambushing the Commonwealth's weapons shipment and murdering its soldiers is none other than Leah Shaw (Lynn Collins), Daryl's former girlfriend and the only surviving member of the Reapers. Last we saw Leah in Season 11, Episode 9 ("No Other Way"), she barely escaped a certain death at Maggie's hands and was later quietly allowed to escape by Daryl.

Of course, this certainly makes us all wonder what impact Leah's new life will have on Daryl's, but there are also a number of bigger questions at play, including the coming war between the Commonwealth and Hilltop. Although Daryl and Maggie have not directly addressed Leah's fate since, it wouldn't be a big surprise to see Leah somehow factor into the growing divide between two of the apocalypse's oldest allies. Perhaps like Negan, Leah is also now part of another community that could eventually pose an even bigger threat?

Episodes of "The Walking Dead" air on AMC on Sunday nights at 9/8c. Check out AMC+ for early access to each episode.